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UN Confirms Cyberattack At Geneva, Vienna Offices In 2019

The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva

The United Nations says its offices in Geneva and Vienna were hit by a cyberattack last year that exposed lists of user accounts, but it insisted that no sensitive information had been obtained by the hackers.

The statement on January 29 confirmed a report by the New Humanitarian agency, which earlier in the day reported it had obtained a confidential UN report detailing how hackers broke into dozens of UN servers in the Swiss and Austrian cities beginning in July 2019.

The group described the attack as "one of the largest ever known to have affected the world body," and warned it raised serious data safety concerns.

Officials did not speculate on the source of the hack. But given the high skill level, it is possible a state-backed actor was behind it, one official said.

“It's as if someone were walking in the sand, and swept up their tracks with a broom afterward. There's not even a trace of a cleanup,” the official added.

Geneva houses several UN agencies, including the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Health Organization, and the World Trade Organization.

Organizations in Vienna include the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Office on Drugs and Crime.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric confirmed to reporters that the UN had been the target of the cyberattack, but he stressed that "the damage related to the specific attack has been contained and additional measures implemented."

He downplayed the attack, saying that "the UN responds to multiple attacks at various levels of sophistication on a daily basis."

Based on reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters